Roles of public library technology in supporting E-government highlighted in new issues brief

Contact: Larra Clark
Project Manager, ORS

For Immediate Release
June 23, 2009

CHICAGO – In the fourth of a series of reports regarding technology access in U.S. public libraries, the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Research & Statistics (ORS) is highlighting how public library technology supports public access and use of e-government information and resources. The issues brief draws from national data published in the Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study (

“U.S. Public Libraries and E-Government Services” describes the increased use of online government information and services, the critical role of public libraries in helping provide access and assistance using these resources and the challenges that must be addressed to improve e-government at the local, state and federal level.

 “Public libraries often are the only organizations within a community that can help individuals interact with government agencies and access e-government services,” said ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels. “As more and more government information and services are becoming only available online, there is an urgent need for governments to collaborate with public libraries to provide e-government services that best meet community needs.”

Among the findings from the national study are:

  • 71 percent of libraries report they are the only source of free access to computers and the Internet in their community;
  • 80 percent of libraries report providing as-needed assistance with e-government services;
  • 61 percent of libraries report providing access to government information is one of the most critical Internet services they provide; and
  • Public libraries offer a number of training classes and/or as-needed assistance on a range of topics, particularly Internet use (92.8 percent), general computer skills (91.3 percent) and online Web searching (76.9 percent).

“U.S. Public Libraries and E-Government Services” was jointly authored by John Carlo Bertot, Shannon N. Simmons and Dawn Borgardt at the University of Maryland (UMCP) Center for Library & Information Innovation; Jessica McGilvray in the ALA Office of Government Relations and Larra Clark in the ALA Office for Research & Statistics.

Library staffs are encouraged to use these briefing papers as educational tools with community stakeholders, including elected officials, funders and program partners, as needed to raise awareness of the specific – and sometimes unique – concerns of libraries around technology deployment. Staff may also use this format as a template for providing local data and examples related to a given topic.

The briefing reports are not intended to be comprehensive, but rather to share key findings from the largest and longest-running study of Internet connectivity in libraries.  The Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and ALA, continues work begun in 1994 by John Carlo Bertot and Charles R. McClure. The study assesses public access to computers, the Internet and Internet-related services in U.S. public libraries, as well as the impact of library funding changes on connectivity, technology deployment and sustainability.

For more information or to download a copy of the issue brief, please visit The research team also invites feedback about future topics and additional tools that would be useful in raising awareness around library technology needs. Please write Larra Clark at with comments.